The Charles B. Wang Community Health Center was honored to receive the 2015 Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize for its work on hepatitis B. The prize is awarded annually by Hunter College Roosevelt Institute for Public Policy to a non-profit for outstanding achievements in public health. We received the award on June 9, 2015, surrounded by our partners and supporters. If you would like to view the ceremony, you can watch a recording here. Here are remarks made by CEO Jane Eng, who accepted the award.
I am truly honored and humbled to accept this award on behalf of the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center’s hepatitis B program.
The Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize not only raises awareness of the health care needs of medically underserved Asian Americans, it also shines a brighter spotlight on hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is a major health issue for Asian Americans and other foreign-born populations, but the disparity is not well known, even within the public health community. I want to thank the Tisch family and the award selection committee for giving us the opportunity to highlight this health disparity to the broader community.
The Health Center was started more than 40 years ago by volunteers who organized what we believe to be the first ever health fair in Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown. The health fair was very successful, and about 2,500 people from the community received a variety of preventive health screening and health education. After the health fair, the volunteers recognized that a one-time screening event was not adequate to address the community’s ongoing need for bilingual, bicultural and affordable health care services.
The volunteers then asked a critical question: “What resources, knowledge and skills do we have within Chinatown that we could bring together to address the gaps in health care?” The question helped them frame a solution – organize a free clinic staffed by volunteers, including doctors and nurses, in space donated by a local church.
From these humble beginnings, the free clinic has evolved to become a federally qualified health center operating in five locations throughout New York City. Today, we are a major provider of primary care for Asian Americans and other patients who face language, cultural and financial barriers in accessing comprehensive and high quality health care.
What we learned over the past 40 years is that a high degree of community engagement and community ownership is needed to address gaps in health and end health disparities.
So, we apply our community engagement and community ownership approach to our work on hepatitis B. About 20 years ago, our providers began to recognize the disproportionate burden of hepatitis B on Asian Americans. A local bank in Chinatown gave us a small grant to conduct screening and education events at local schools. Gradually, we expanded our outreach to the community, holding screening events at community sites throughout New York City.
About 8 years ago, we started comprehensive monitoring and treatment program to make sure that individuals identified with chronic infections at screening events are linked to accessible and affordable care. We incorporated hepatitis B screening as a routine service for at risk patients. We trained our providers to take care of hepatitis B patients within the community to reduce the need for more expensive specialist referrals. We also began an advocacy agenda to educate our elected officials and the broader public health community about the disproportionate burden of hepatitis B on the foreign born. We worked with the ethnic media to raise awareness about the importance of prevention. We even disseminated our findings and lessons learned through publication in journals and presentations at local and national meetings.
During the past 20 years, we have partnered with many individuals and groups to advance the hepatitis B agenda. Without question, collaborative efforts to improve health are essential. Working together, sharing resources, and combining talent enhance the opportunities and likelihood for achieving positive health outcomes. Because of the complexity and cost of today’s health environment, health care providers, public health agencies and others involved in prevention efforts cannot afford to work in isolation. Collaboration results in positive outcomes that are superior to outcomes that result from organizations working separately on parallel paths.
I want to take the opportunity to thank the many partners who contributed to and supported our hepatitis B work through the years. It is our partnerships, not just the Health Center, that deserves the credit for the success of our hepatitis B work.
First, I want to thank our board of directors. As Health Center patients and community members, you have always challenged me and our executive leadership team to put the community’s interest and needs at the heart of all that we do.
I want to acknowledge our hepatitis B team, under the leadership of Dr. Perry Pong, Dr. Vivian Huang and our Hepatitis B Program Associate Nicole Bannister, for your outstanding work which resulted in today’s award. I also want to acknowledge Dr. Su Wang, our former hepatitis B director, who advanced our hepatitis B awareness and advocacy campaign to the national level by serving as an expert consultant to the Institute of Medicine and the White House Summit on hepatitis B.
I am very proud that one of the Health Center’s core values is delivering high quality, patient-centered care to all. Everyone in the organization, not just the medical director or the chief operating officer, but everyone from top to bottom, is responsible for quality. The hepatitis B team certainly exemplifies our commitment to ensuring quality and achieving excellence in all that we do.
I also want to thank our many partners – the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Viral Hepatitis Division, the Chinese American Medical Society and Chinese American Independent Practice Association, Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, NYU Langone Medical Center, Bellevue Hospital, Lower Manhattan Presbyterian Hospital and many others. Your collaboration allows us to leverage each other’s expertise and resources, and amplify the prevention message to a broader segment of the community.
I also want to thank our many donors and funders, especially Robin Hood, Ms. Miranda Tang and Dr. James Chang, for your generous support of our Hepatitis B Care Program. Without your support, many uninsured patients with chronic hepatitis B infection will probably forgo lifesaving treatment that can reduce their risk of developing serious liver disease.
We know that community partnerships take time, trust and respect to build. It is a marathon, not a sprint. We hope that you will continue this journey with us. Together, we can achieve a world without hepatitis B.
Written by Jane T. Eng, Esq
Jane Eng is the chief executive officer and president of the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Jane has been involved with the Health Center since 1975. She is a board member of the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations and Community Health Care Association of New York State.